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Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

Summary of Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

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Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio


The 14th century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio completed the collection of stories “The Decameron” in the year 1353. The Decameron is structured in such a frame that it comprises hundred tales which are narrated by a group of ten young women and men. All of these young individuals are in a shelter within a villa which is located just outside of Florence; they are sheltering in order to escape from the Black Death.

Black Death had struck the city of the narrators. Decameron is originated from Greece that is a combination of two words ‘deka’ that means ten and ‘hemera’ which is the Greek for day; the combination of the words form together to derive a meaning which is a ‘ten-day event’. Each of the characters narrates their stories that cover a period of ten days.

It is interesting to note that each of the young men and women, whilst telling their stories, make themselves a king or queen for one evening. It is this time during which they can determine the topic of the particular evening’s tales. For instance, they can choose to tell stories with human willpower as the focal point or even narrate love stories that did not end happily.

It is Dioneo who tells the tenth story every day usually. For his wit, Dioneo gets to choose any topic on which he could tell his tale for the evening. Each and every story of The Decameron has a frame that includes having an introduction as well as a conclusion. In the era of Boccaccio, the titles of the chapter were brief descriptions of its content; the title describes if anyone kills someone or falls in love and the consequences too. 

Detailed Summary:

Back in the time of 1348, the cities were ravaged with the Black Death; it took the lives of numerous families, it made the neighborhoods empty. The daily routines of the lives were abandoned and instead chaos reined the city. In the midst of such chaos, a group of seven young women gathered in the church of Santa Maria Novella, in order to pray and talk about their sadness in their lives. They hoped that in some way discussing their problems would help them alleviate the suffering that they were going through.

Pampinea, who is the oldest one of the whole group, suggests a solution to end their suffering; she advised all of the other young women to go on a trip. An idea of trip was good enough for the type of condition that the city was in; it would have been good to get out of the city which was filled with infection. Moreover, back in the city there was nothing else to do except to see bodies being piled up one by one and listening about death.

Apart from the infection, the young women also agreed that during these times it would be safe for them to get out of the town for some time since the social and moral controls are in chaos too and people are giving themselves to the carnal pleasures. They decided that it was better to get out of the chaos of their city and enjoy the nature’s beauty somewhere where the houses are enough far apart and one would not be able to watch their neighbor die each time they would look out of their window.

It was also advised by the prevailing medical team back in their city that some place with healthy air and a cheerful ambience would help the people to have their chances decreased when it comes to catch the disease. However, the women were afraid of travelling in such a circumstance and that too alone. During that time women were termed as irrational and fickle and constantly in need of the authority of men.

Fortune intervenes at that precise moment and three young men arrive at the church. This is when the women take the opportunity and convince the men to go with them. While they were travelling, they did not have to go far in order to get away from the horror that prevailed in the city. Within two miles of their journey, the group of travelers reached a lovely place which was full of amenities and was arranged by them for staying in the trip.

Once they arrive at the place, they realized that certain kinds of mischief happen in the place if they are bored; this is why they invented the game of storytelling to have their time occupied. A set of rules is made where they choose a “Queen” who will rule them the first day and hence a structure of their two week stay is planned.

For the next two weeks, a new king or queen tell one each based on the chosen theme; it is the king or the queen who makes arrangements for their entertainment as well as their meals. According to them, it is the routine of their storytelling that is not only keeping them refreshed and entertained, but it is also keeping them on a straight path while they are on their trip away from the horrors of the city. Due to this routine of storytelling, they believe, that they will be able to keep themselves away from the gossips.

The themes that were selected for their story included Power of Fortune, Unhappy Lovers, Genius and Industry, Loves that ended happily, Witty Remarks, Pranks that were played on the Husbands by their Wives or even Pranks of all kinds and Munificence. There were days that had an open theme and they had the liberty to narrate any story of their liking.

With all attributes of different stories and themes, the trip ends for the group and at the last morning they depart for Santa Maria Novella, which is from where they started their journey. The collection of stories, The Decameron has a bit of anticlimax when the group of young ladies goes home but the group of men goes off somewhere else to amuse themselves.

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